Teletext (ITV/Channel 4, 1993-2009)
Many years ago I used to enjoy using Teletext, before the internet it was a very valuable service featuring the latest updates in news and sport coverage. Teletext replaced Oracle as the service for ITV and Channel 4 in 1993. And when I decided to recall the many hours I spent looking at the pages, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite features.
Bamboozle! This was the interactive game where the contestants where the viewers at home. Every day the charismatic Bamber Boozler would pose various general knowledge questions and we had to answer them by pressing the correct corresponding button on our remote control. The format did change over the years, with other members of Bamber’s family joining in the fun, and a few special games on a specific subject, but the challenge was always to get all the answers correct as quickly as possible. After the close of Teletext Bamboozle! became available to play as a game on your mobile phone.
Digitiser. A great section that was all about the world of computer games. There would be daily news and reviews, but that was only the half of it. There were also a remarkably odd amount of characters created who would comment on the games. You can’t really ever forget the likes of The Man’s Diary or Chips And Teats With Mr Nude once you’ve seen them.
One of the best features was the letters page, where viewers wrote in with their viewers and usually got an amusing response. I remember a viewer with the surname O’Connor constantly being called Des, and Stuart N Hardy who was “the king of the mess-ups”. Most people were simply told “you, sir, are an idiot”. There was also more fun to be had when the reveal-me-do brought us even odder characters such as the adventures of Mr T and his bins.
Digitiser was written among others by “Mr Biffo”, and when the pages left Teletext in 2003 it was never the same. However, the idea was recently revived on the website http://www.digitiser2000.com and it is well worth a read. Digitiser was replaced with GameCentral which was a much more straightforward analysis of computer games, with writers who had worked on such established magazines as Edge. There was one amusing feature though with the regular spoof reviewer Nigel Humdrum who liked terrible cash-in mainstream games. After Teletext closed GameCentral continued for a while online.
Generator. I think this section was called Generator for a while at least, they were always changing the names and page numbers of features. It had news and reviews for younger viewers, the most memorable page being Megazine. This was where viewers wrote in with odd comments on life under bizarre pseudonyms. They received replies from the mysterious “WLW” who was apparently a gay giraffe, and it was all teenage angst writ large really.
Planet Sound. A daily look at the world of music, with news, reviews and features. I remember reading the Launchpad page which reviewed the week’s singles, and wondering who half the acts were. There was also a chance for up-and-coming bands to send in their demo tapes and a lot of acts got their first exposure on that page. I also remember letters page The Void with lots of debate about the state of the music scene. The only actual pop star I can actually ever remember ever writing to the page who was a regular viewer was Paul Heaton from The Beautiful South.
Teletext removed all its news content at the end of 2009, although it did carry on in some regions until 2012 when the digital switchover was finally complete. By then all the pages consisted of was those ludicrous horseracing adverts with tipsters insisting that we should bet on outsiders with comments like “This one can’t lose! 25-1! LUMP ON BIG!”. In more recent years there have been a few variations such as Digital Teletext and the website but they’re not the same really.